Monday, August 31, 2009

Stop putting people to sleep with your Powerpoint deck!

Two years ago, I started getting requests to speak on social media at conferences and private events. This was GREAT, but it also made me come to grips with a cold, hard reality; My powerpoint skills SUCKED.


So I had to get up to speed quickly on building a better deck. While I don't consider myself an expert, I do think my slides have gotten 1000% better, and I wanted to share what I've learned, so that hopefully you can improve your own decks. Here's my 6 keys to building a better Powerpoint deck:

1 - Think visually. We remember visuals better than words in most cases. To that end, please go buy Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds. If you are serious about your speaking career, and have to create Powerpoint decks regularly, then this book is a MUST have. The book has wonderful before and after examples, especially of taking very basic and generic (read: boring) slides and turning them into something amazing.

2 - Fewer words are better. Think about it, if you have 10 words on each slide, the audience isn't going to be listening to what you are saying, they are going to be reading your slides. If that's the case, you could have given them a handout with the words and not even shown up. Distill your slides down to as few key words as possible, then explain the relevance of those words. If all the information the audience needs is on the slides, then why are you there?

3 - Use quotes and key facts or stats to back up your points, and then use pictures with them. In the What Rockstars Can Teach You About Kicking Ass With Social Media presentation I gave at Social South recently, I wanted to add a quote from Sarah McLachlan. I could have gone with a cookie-cutter slide like this:

But instead I went with this:

See the difference? And here's another tip; notice that's a LONG quote. So I bolded the key words that I wanted to focus on, and didn't read the whole quote to the audience, just pointed out the two bolded phrases.

4 - Bullet points must DIE DIE DIE! Seriously, these are a crutch that need to be removed. The only time I can halfway deal with bullet points are at the very beginning of a deck to let the audience know the key points that will be covered, and then again at the end to recap what was learned. But if you have bullet points in the middle, it forces your audience to stop paying attention to you, and start reading your slides. Not good. If you MUST have bullet points, at least add animation that brings in the points one at a time.

5 - Make your deck COMPLEMENT your presentation. Again, YOU are the main attraction here, the deck is simply a tool to help you educate, entertain and motivate your audience. Don't give it all away on the slides, for example, here's another slide from my Rockstar deck:

If you aren't a fan of @AmandaPalmer and didn't attend my session, you probably have no idea what this slide is about, or why it's important. But if you did, this made perfect sense, as it tied into a case study I explained about how Amanda used Twitter to make $11,000.00 in two hours. But the slide alone really isn't that valuable without the explanation. This also helps people that are worried about putting their decks online for fear that someone will steal their ideas. The value of your presentation should be YOUR explanation and elaboration of the points you are trying to make with your slides. This is another reason why your slides should have fewer words, which requires YOU to better explain the points you are trying to make.

6 - Strive to be an expert. I know two things; my Powerpoint skills are 1000% better now than they were two years ago. And I also know that there is still plenty of room for improvement. That's why I closely study how others create great decks. Two people's work that I recommend you follow are David Armano, and Kelsey Ruger. Both create amazing slides, and I always learn something from them.

BTW if you are looking for sources of visuals for your slides, two things I use extensively are SnagIt! for simple screenshots, and Flickr photos that are available for use. Check HERE for ones that are and make SURE you add a link back to the Flickr user in your presentation, either on the slide itself, or at the end of your deck. Oh and if you are interested in viewing my Rockstar deck, here it is:

And finally, click here if you'd like more information on my speaking or want to get a quote on my delivering this presentation or another at your event, or email me.

PS: Thanks to Valeria and Everything and Nothing for being my editors for this post ;)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Are we too worried with finding the ROI of social media?

Several months ago I contacted a certain big company. One that's been using social media very well, and that's often used as a case study for how businesses can successfully use social media. I wanted to know what was their direct bottom line impact from social media? How had sales increased or decreased? What was the ROI of their efforts in terms of dollars?

Their answer surprised me. "We have no idea."

They further clarified "My boss has never asked for the ROI, because he sees the value in our efforts."

If you'll notice, I've been asking companies when I interview them in the Social Media Mavens series about ROI.

Best Buy's Gary Koelling had this to say about how they track the return on Blue Shirt Nation:

"I could correlate half a hundred metrics we watch as indicators of how we’re doing as a business with half a hundred metrics we watch as indicators of how we’re doing as a social network and probably correlate half a billion dollars in growth or savings as a result. One reason I don’t is because I don’t care, it doesn’t interest me. In fact it makes me sleepy. The other reason is that my sponsors have never asked for it. Not only do they see the value but they understand what happens when you measure things you don’t fully understand. A machine, any machine, will tend to become its own criteria. If I measure how effective BSN was at reducing turnover, it would become a machine that reduces turnover. I’m sure it does or doesn’t have an effect on turnover. The bottom line is it’s a network of humans, a true and thriving and vibrant network and every time someone uses it, it’s more valuable to the next person that uses it."

Kodak's Tom Hoehn said
this is what the company measures the effectiveness of its A Thousand Words blog:

  • Reverb – That comment we noticed multiplied by the number of followers, fans, friends, BFFs, etc. the person making it has.
  • We are after hearts and minds instead of eyeballs. We feel we have a good story to tell on many levels and it seems to be resonating with people.
  • We of course look at table stakes measures like page views, refers, search ranking, etc. If you don’t do those things by now your head is probably swimming from all of the other information I have shared ;-)
  • ROI is the holy grail we are all chasing but we like to think that return on ignoring (thanks @DavidAlston) is even worse.

PepsiCo's Bonin Bough said this
about how Pepsi tracks the ROI of its social media efforts:

"All our efforts in the social media space are totally focused on ROI, and demonstrating the value of engaging with consumers on social media platforms. Measuring a program against key metrics and relationships is really important as we scale up our social media work across brands. For Trop50 specifically we are working with Ogilvy and their Conversation Impact model which tracks key metrics that ladder up to Reach, Preference and Action."

Graco's Lindsay Lebresco said this about how the company measures the effectiveness of its company blog:

"We use a variety of methods, some of them fairly standard (how many comments, how many links, how many visitors, how many clicked through to, etc) and we also look at the engagement of our readers. Are readers coming back over time?, how often are they commenting?, is the relationship with our blog readers extending to other SM platforms of ours?, etc) SEO is certainly another measure we look at."

These are some of the largest and most successful corporate social media case studies on the planet. And in re-reading these quotes, I noticed two things:

1 - None of them are mentioning the direct ROI (in terms of dollars) on their social media efforts.

2 - All of them can see the VALUE in their efforts, and apparently, so can their companies.

Some people will argue that if you mention the ROI of social media, that you have to speak in terms of dollars in, and dollars out. I'm not going to argue that point, but based on what I'm hearing from BIG companies that are having success with social media, they are getting C-suite buy-in and continued support from their efforts because they are creating something that the c-suite sees the value of for their companies. I especially thought Gary's comments about Blue Shirt Nation were interesting and not wanting to turn BSN into a 'machine' for a particular metric.

All of the above companies would likely be hard-pressed to find an ROI for their efforts that fits a pure business definition of the term. Does that mean their efforts are a failure? Or does it mean that the end goal should be that our social media efforts should generate something of value? Are we too hung up on finding the ROI of social media, or should we be focusing on value creation?

At the end of the day, should companies engaging or considering using social media ask 'What's the ROI of our efforts?' or 'What value is being created for our business via social media?'

I'm not sure, that's why I'm throwing this out to get your thoughts.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Social Media Mavens - An Interview with Best Buy's Gary Koelling

For a while now, companies such as Dell and Zappos have been getting attention from their great external social media efforts. But what about internal efforts? Is it possible for large companies to create an internal effort that gives their employees the ability to connect just as many companies are wanting to see their customers connect?

Gary Koelling and Best Buy thought so, and launched what has become the wildly successful Blue Shirt Nation for Best Buy employees. Here, Gary walks us through how this effort came to be, and what they've learned.

MC- First, why go with an internal social network for employees, rather than an external one for customers? Was it a conscious choice that Best Buy made, or did the idea of creating Blue Shirt Nation make sense and you ran with it?

GK - When we first build BlueShirt Nation (BSN) it was an attempt to solve a specific problem. We wanted to get employee and customer insight that could lead to better, more relevant advertising. We never got a direct answer to that although you could argue it led to us to better advertising eventually. Any way, the users made it into a social network. Steve Bendt (the other founder of BSN) and I just happened to have the good sense to stick with it - whatever it became. As it turned out it became quite a phenomenon - a combination of the right executive sponsorship (new at the time), timing - social media was rising and the right target - most of our employees are very early twenties. Perfect storm. As to your question of why internal versus external - culturally we weren’t ready to have that kind of relationship with our customers. It’s only after three or four years of practicing on each other and getting familiar with where all the social media buttons and switches are can we even begin to try things with our customers. Some work out. Some don’t. But I point to our own social culture as a basis for even trying with our customers.

MC - Of course these days everyone is wanting to hear about how to measure the effectiveness of social media programs. But since BSN is an internal effort, how does Best Buy decide what value is being created by BSN for the company? Are you focusing more on numbers, or helping your employees connect and share information?

GK - What are numbers? I can tell you how many unique visits I get in a day or week or month. I call tell you what the bounce rate is, avg number of pages viewed, time spent on the site, number of articles, comments, votes. I can tell you what our employee turnover is now versus then or how the level of participation has gone up in our 401k program. We could look at customer satisfaction scores and correlate that to BSN participation. I could correlate half a hundred metrics we watch as indicators of how we’re doing as a business with half a hundred metrics we watch as indicators of how we’re doing as a social network and probably correlate half a billion dollars in growth or savings as a result. One reason I don’t is because I don’t care, it doesn’t interest me. In fact it makes me sleepy. The other reason is that my sponsors have never asked for it. Not only do they see the value but they understand what happens when you measure things you don’t fully understand. A machine, any machine, will tend to become its own criteria. If I measure how effective BSN was at reducing turnover, it would become a machine that reduces turnover. I’m sure it does or doesn’t have an effect on turnover. The bottom line is it’s a network of humans, a true and thriving and vibrant network and every time someone uses it, it’s more valuable to the next person that uses it.

MC - I'm sure when Best Buy first conceived of starting an internal platform for your employees, that you guys had in mind some ways in which employees would probably use BSN. But are there any ways in which employees are using BSN that totally surprised you guys? Anything they are doing with the platform that you never saw coming?

GK - I never saw any of it coming. It’s all been a surprise to me.

MC - Blue Shirt Nation is hailed as a great case study for how a company can use social media internally, but how has it impacted your external social media efforts? Do you think that starting with an internal effort first has made it easier for your employees to engage with customers via social media?

GK - There is no internal or external. There is only public or private. Not only has it made it easier, it has made it possible.

Thanks again to Gary for pulling back the curtain a bit on what Best Buy has and is doing with Blue Shirt Nation. Make sure you follow Gary on his site, and on Twitter. And if your company would like to be considered for a future interview in the Social Media Mavens series, please email me. Look for the next interview in this series in two weeks!

Pic of Flickr user toprankonlinemarketing

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Targeting the big voices vs finding the RIGHT voices

Leah Jones wrote a post yesterday that sparked a wonderful discussion of blogger outreach and the potential ethical concerns involved. The long story short is that Panasonic and their agency Crayon brought several 'influencers' to this year's Consumer Electronics Show, or CES to meet with Panasonic and try out various Panasonic products. One of those 'influencers' that Panasonic brought in was Chris Brogan, who while at the event, struck up a conversation with representatives from Sony (a top competitor to Panasonic), and is now doing business with them, as a result of their meeting at CES.

The key question that Leah posed was to wonder if Chris did something wrong in going to CES on Panasonic's dime, and then networking with Panasonic's competitors as potential clients.

Look, everyone knows how I feel about Chris. I like him, and consider him a good friend. So I'm willing to accept the possibility that I could be biased in favor of him when I look at this issue. But honestly, I don't see any problem with what Chris did. Last year I was flown in to speak at an event, and after I presented, one of the attendees loved my session so much that they asked me to present at their event. I confirmed with them, and a few months later the first event organizer contacted me about speaking at their event again, and I had to decline because I had confirmed to speak at the second event, which was being planned for the same weekend. Was I wrong to network with the second event organizer while at the first event? I don't think so, but maybe some do.

But in the midst of this debate, I think Spike Jones raised the key point, that many overlooked; Most companies are targeting the wrong people with their blogger outreach efforts. Why did Panasonic bring in 'influencers' to play with their toys instead of their own evangelists and fans? In most cases, influencers create short-term buzz, while evangelists produce long-term excitement. Why? Because the evangelists have a vested interest in promoting the company even before they reach out to them. Influencers usually don't have the emotional ties to the brands targeting them, so their desire to promote their involvement comes from a personal level moreso than wanting to promote the brand/company/products.

So which is more valuable to a company, one matter-of-fact Tweet from an influencer to her 50,000 followers, or one passionate evangelist with a fraction of the 'audience' that will promote the company from now on?

Short-term buzz vs long-term excitement. Evangelists trump 'influencers' every time.

Pic via Flickr user cameronparkins

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sweet Home Alabama! - Social South recap

I have to admit that I was pretty damn excited about Social South. I knew with the speakers and program that Scott Schablow and his team were putting together that the event would be a success. But I think what happened over two days in Birmingham blew everyone away, from the attendees to the speakers, to the organizers. We had RichardatDell and LionelatDell together on stage for the first time ever, probably the most audience participation I've ever seen at a social media conference, and a woman from Bahrain move an entire conference to tears with her story of how she's using social media to help others.

Before getting further into the recap, I must stress what an AMAZING job Scott and the team at Provenance Digital Media did in planning and executing this event. Scott was literally working several hours a day on SoSo on TOP of his 'day job' at Provenance. I would often get up in the morning to see he had left me emails about SoSo sometimes as late as 3 and 4 am. He even had to cancel his session on Twitter during the event, because he simply didn't have enough time to finish preparing for it, while trying to run the event at the same time. Jason Hill and Stacey Hood also were wonderful about taking care of the speakers, they shuttled us all over the place, from and back to airports, to the event, to bars, everywhere. The speakers were taken better care of at this event than any I've ever spoken at. Easily.

Now as for the sessions themselves, the biggest problem I had was that there were too many good ones. At every time slot there were at least 2 sessions I really wanted to see, and usually 3. Before every slot I had to go around apologizing to speakers because I would have to miss their session. It was especially brutal in the Sat morning slots. On Friday, the crowd was honestly larger than I expected. The first session I attended was Beth Harte's session on Social Media Planning and Measurement, and it was standing room only. I think one of the biggest takeaways was that marketers have to prove their worth to their bosses, and this is especially true of anyone engaging in social media. Great session from Beth and I think this was exactly what many attendees wanted and needed to hear.

My session, What Rockstars Can Teach You About Kicking Ass With Social Media was next and I won't get into it here as I'll have a full recap of the session on later. In short, I was honestly surprised at how well the session was received, I think it's the most popular presentation I've ever given, based on feedback I got from the attendees. Beth's session gave me a great lead-in crowd. Next was Toby Bloomberg's session on Social Media, Southern Hospitality Style. I loved this session because SO many people make social media harder than it has to be. So much of being successful in social media is simply about being friendly and respectful and hospitable. Qualities that people in the Deep South have in spades. Loved Toby's analogy of the front porch conversation, and the corner grocery store.

Next came Friday's keynote, which saw RichardatDell and LionelatDell speaking together on stage, for the first time. I have to say that getting the honor to introduce Richard and Lionel as Social South's first keynote was one of the very highlights of the event for me. Richard and Lionel told a story that was probably familiar to many of the speakers (the ones that have been immersed in this space for as long as Dell has), but for the attendees, it was an invaluable look at how a huge company is using and integrating social media. And I thought what was really telling for everyone was not only what Dell has learned about social media, but what Dell has learned about their CUSTOMERS, thanks to social media. But the biggest lesson of all is, if a big online company like Dell can use social media as a way to develop individual relationships with their customers, your online company really has no excuse.

The Friday afternoon session saw us move to our 'Conversations' portion. If you've ever attended # blogchat on Twitter, then these sessions were structured as being 'live Twitter chats'. They were led by 2-3 speakers, who facilitated room-wide conversations around a particular topic. This is where the speakers at Social South really shined. The speakers had almost no coaching on this format (mainly because we didn't want it to be a presentation, we wanted it to be an open discussion), but they ran with it and made it come off flawlessly.

And this is also where I really discovered that we had some damn smart people attending Social South. Scott and Jason had told me that the audience was mostly past the Social Media 101 level, and they really were. They asked smart questions and left ME taking notes from them. This made the discussions even more rewarding for everyone.

Day Two opened with me apologizing to David Griner, Tom Martin, and Paul Chaney for having to miss their talks. Seriously, there were just too many amazing speakers and sessions at Social South. But one thing I loved about the Saturday program was that CK and Ike Pigott were set up as a nice 1-2 punch for overcoming fears and objections to social media, and selling your boss on social media. CK's session was on the Six Demons that make companies want to fear using social media, and how to overcome those fears. At one point CK was explaining how Dell uses Ideastorm to connect with customers, while Lionel was sitting in the front row. My first thought was that I hope that the Social South attendees appreciated how lucky they were to be seeing this. I think they did!

Next, Ike had his wonderful session on overcoming corporate objections to social media, based on Pac-Man. Wonderful analogy, and I'll just point you to the deck on Slide Share. To complete the triple-play, CK and Ike later hosted a Roundtable on Selling Your Boss on Social Media. I think this played perfectly off the sessions that Ike and CK had delivered, and was one of the last sessions of the event, which gave attendees the right information at the right time.

But this recap would be woefully incomplete if I did not mention Esra'a Al Shafei's Saturday keynote. Esra'a was originally slated to deliver her keynote at the event, but days before Social South, she learned that the US had denied her visa to the country. So Scott and his team had to scramble to come up with an alternative, and decided to go ahead and have Esra'a do the keynote, but via Skype video.

So here we are looking at a young woman up on the screen with her headset on starting her keynote in what appears to be her room, halfway across the world. I think 'this is pretty cool!', and snap a picture on my cellphone to post on Twitter. Almost as soon as I take the pic, Scott rather forcefully interrupts Esra'a and asks the crowd to please NOT take pictures of Esra'a or take video of her presentation. He explains that Esra'a goes to great lengths to ensure that there are no pictures of her online, because many people would like to discover her true identity to stop her from doing what she is doing. Possibly even by killing her. When you suddenly realize that a person is possibly putting their life in danger to talk to you, it gets your attention.

But Esra'a's cause is one that she believes that strongly in. She detailed for the next hour or so the efforts of Mideast Youth to use social media to draw attention to the plights and persecution of people in the Mideast and Africa that are having their human rights violated. People that are being jailed and even killed for simply questioning their government, or not practicing a 'government-approved' religion. In short, people that are being persecuted for attempting to engage in a level of freedom that we in the United States mostly take for granted. At least I know I often do. But Esra'a's story was so amazingly compelling. When she calmly stated that she knew she was putting her life in danger by speaking out and drawing attention to what certain governments were doing, and that she was not afraid and ready to die for a cause she believed in, it truly made me appreciate the power of social media. It made me appreciate how Esra'a is not only using these tools to help others, but how these tools made it possible to hear Esra'a's story, even though people and even governments were trying to stop her voice from being heard. Tears streamed down my face and everyone else's in attendance as we gave Esra'a the standing ovation she so richly deserved. Jason Falls has an excellent recap of her keynote, and here's where you can learn more about what Mideast Youth is doing, and here's where you can follow Esra'a on Twitter.

Seriously, Social South was an amazing event. If you missed #SoSo, stop kicking yourself and start planning for attending it next year. Thankfully, the response blew everyone away, and I think that's ensured there will be a Social South 2010. So to everyone I met at Social South, the speakers and attendees I reconnected with, thank you ALL for creating an amazing 2-day experience!

Pic of the Daily Fix Crew via @treypennington

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fortune 100 companies embracing social media; especially Twitter

A recent study by Burson-Marsteller,via eMarketer, had some interesting findings for how Fortune 100 companies are using social media.

First, Twitter seems to be the social-media darling not just with mainstream media, but with the world's largest companies as well. According to the study, 54% of the Fortune 100 companies surveyed are active on Twitter. Another interesting stat is that 21 of the Fortune 100 companies use only Twitter or Facebook Pages or have a company blog. Of that 21%, 76% of those companies that only use one channel, use Twitter. Given that the tool can be picked up quickly, and is especially useful as a customer-service management tool for larger companies, these figures shouldn't be a big surprise.

Another interesting finding is that 32 of the Fortune 100 companies are blogging. This figure is over twice that of the Fortune 500 companies that are blogging. It's also a good sign because blogs require a solid time-commitment, much moreso than the average Twitter presence.

And finally, the study found that 60% of the Fortune 100 is using one of the three sites/tools of Twitter, Facebook Pages, or a blog. And 17% are using all three.

Now let's remember that not EVERY company should be using social media. BUT for larger companies, that have many more customers, using social media makes much more sense. As these companies have more customers, they also have more customers online, and likely have more customers that are online and using social media to discuss that company.

So it's good to see that most members of the Fortune 100 are at least experimenting with using social media to connect with their online customers. But the rate of adoption should probably be much higher, and likely will be in the next couple of years.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Social Media isn't going away, either get on the bus, or get left behind

I want to rant, and I want to talk to two people. The first is the guy that thinks that social media is the end-all-be-all of marketing and communication. So much so that it super cedes every and all communication tools that came before it.

The second guy is sick of the first guy. He loves taking swings at him and social media, and focuses his energy on pointing out that social media is NOT the big deal that the first guy thinks it is.

I have a message for both of you: You're getting left behind.

The future doesn't belong to companies that think that social media is the best thing since sliced bread. It also doesn't belong to companies that think that it's all overblown kool-aid drinking, and that's determined to ignore it, simply because you hate all the hype that social media is getting.

You guys keep fussing about which tools are best, the rest of us will keep figuring out how these tools can WORK TOGETHER to benefit companies.

Social media isn't going away, and neither is 'traditional' marketing. You can either worry about which tools are best, and who is 'right', or you can get to work figuring out which tools are right for your company and clients.

Where will you spend your time?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Social Media Mavens - An Interview with HomeGoods' Cathy Mortensen and Kristie Rogers

If you're a fan of my Company Blog Checkup series, you know that one of the top-rated blogs in that series is HomeGoods' Open House blog (which I reviewed here). Since HomeGoods does such a great job with the Open House blog, I wanted to reach out to them and have them walk us through what goes into creating and maintaining an excellent company blog. Cathy Mortensen, who is one of the bloggers at Open House, and Kristie Rogers, who is Home Goods' Marketing Manager, both agreed to answer my questions about the blog:

MC - How does HomeGoods track and measure the effectiveness of the OpenHouse blog?

Kristie - A variety of different metrics go into evaluating the success of HG Openhouse. Since we consider HG Openhouse to be like a sisterhood of customers who love their home, we want to make sure we deliver on that promise. We evaluate the following metrics:

- Content: # of posts
- Traffic: Visits
- Engagement: comments / post & time spent

There are also secondary user behavior metrics that we look at to help optimize our blog experience such as links into the blog, where are they clicking within the blog, and why are they leaving.

MC - One of the things I love about how the OpenHouse bloggers handle comments is that they always refer to the commenter by their first name. I love this as it makes the interaction much more conversational. Was there a conscious plan in place to do that, or was it just something that the bloggers decided to start doing themselves?

Kristie - It was a conscious plan to keep the blog as organic as possible. We wanted to make it inviting just as if you were having guests over to your home. We give a lot of autonomy to the bloggers. There are very little restrictions. Referring to “commenters” by their first name makes it more of a dialog. We like to think of HG Openhouse as a sisterhood - girlfriends having a conversation with one another.

Cathy - We love to interact with the “commenters”. Whether its friendly chit chat or discussing ideas and solutions, they all feel like your long lost friends. Dialog is sincere, comfortable and engaging. Additionally, with the wide variety of bloggers, “home”-centered professions, it makes professional advice accessible to anyone free of charge. We all learn and are inspired by each other.

MC - How do the bloggers handle the posting schedule? Do you just get a post up whenever you can, or does each blogger have their own quota for how many posts they need to write during a certain time frame? (X number of posts a week/month?)

Kristie - We do like to have a post a day to keep the content fresh which is how we have arranged it with the bloggers. However, if inspiration strikes on any given day, we say go for it. Post away!

MC - Crafting compelling content for a blog is an issue that many companies struggle mightily with. In the case of the Open House blog, the content is crafted around home decorating, instead of directly promoting HomeGoods' products. I think that makes the blog much more valuable to its readers, and ultimately does a better job of promoting HomeGoods. I'm curious as to what the thought process was for picking this approach? Did you do research beforehand to see how the content should be positioned, or did you just make a 'gut' decision in this regard?

Kristie - The strategy for HG Openhouse is for our most passionate customers to talk to other customers about the love for their homes and surroundings whether that is in the form of decorating, entertaining, organizing, gifting, etc. We want the bloggers to talk about what inspires them and how they make their home their happy place.

Cathy - We are allowed artistic/literary license when we post. We’re not told what to post. We do not promote HomeGoods per se, sometimes we just can’t help ourselves and accolades escape. But HomeGoods wanted authentic and genuine dialog for the blog to be a forum for anyone who loved to talk about home related subjects. In that respect, it reflects positively for HomeGoods which ultimately promotes and values the brand.

I think the success of the blog can be contributed, by enlisting ordinary people to talk about their passions with a passion. Many have the same compelling interests, and love to exchange ideas, perspectives and experiences without being “sold” something. It’s friendship, not salesmanship that people remember and trust.

Thanks Cathy and Kristie! Great insights into how HomeGoods structures the Open House blog and I love that they wanted to give the blog to their most passionate customers! Definitely make SURE you check out the Open House blog!

And if your company would like to be considered for a future interview in the Social Media Mavens series, please email me. Look for the next interview in this series in two weeks!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

How to always be behind the social media curve

A few weeks ago I was talking to a company that lamented to me that everyone was buzzing about Twitter, and they knew nothing about it. 'I think we need to hire someone that understands Twitter', was their suggested solution.

But yesterday, something big happened in the social media world; Facebook bought Friendfeed. Guess what? The person they just hired that understands Twitter, had better understand Facebook and Friendfeed as well, or else they are back to being behind again.

Companies that are scrambling to 'catch up' when it comes to social media need to understand this; Don't focus on understanding how to use the individual tools, focus on understanding WHY people are using the tools. Why is Twitter so popular? Why did Facebook want to buy Friendfeed? What does the rise in popularity of these tools mean for usage of other social media tools such as blogs and podcasts?

Companies, when you are hiring people to fill your social media positions, or when you are thinking about outsourcing your social media needs, hire someone that can help you understand WHY the tools work and why people are using them. If you hire a 'Twitter expert', what happens when everyone leaves Twitter for Facebook? Then you need to hire a 'Facebook expert'. Or you can stop chasing the individual tools, and hire someone that understands HOW and WHY the tools work, and work for your customers.

Monday, August 10, 2009

#Blogchat 8-09 Recap; How to Maximize Your Blog's SEO Efforts With @LeeOdden

Lee Odden joined #blogchat last night to tackle a topic that many of you have been asking about; How do I improve the SEO of my blog? Lee had a ton of great advice for us all, but I saw these as the Top Ten takeaways:

1 - Optimize for people first, then search engines. Remember what people are looking for, and give it to them.

2 - Research keywords but don't forget to check out tags and social media keywords.

3 - Keywords in your post title are more important than in the post. But work keywords in so that they make sense, don't add just to be adding.

4 - All in One SEO is a great SEO plugin for Wordpress users.

5 - Having your own domain name is better for SEO purposes ( vs

6 - Focus on the people that are reading and linking to your content. Worth their weight in SEO gold!

7 - Research keywords and make a glossary.

8 - Create content worth sharing and linking to.

9 - Don't go overboard in trying to 'improve' your SEO efforts. Too many keywords can be a problem.

10 - Content that's valuable and sharable is great for SEO.

If you missed #blogchat last night (or want to take notes!), here's the transcript. Thanks again to Lee for joining us, and if you aren't already, please follow Lee on Twitter. What were YOUR key takeaways from last night's #blogchat?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

ABC turns to Twitter to keep 'Castle' viewers interested during hiatus

Two years ago, I blogged that popular USA summer series Burn Notice should start using Twitter to build interest in the show. My thinking was that USA could create an account that would let lead character Michael Westin keep followers up to date on his quest to figure out who burned him. If smartly done, USA could give diehard fans a way to learn more about the plot, without penalizing viewers that didn't follow Westin on Twitter.

Burn Notice hasn't yet taken my advice, but it seems ABC has for the show Castle. ABC has created an account for the central character, Richard Castle, and Castle twitters his progress in investigating and solving the murder mystery that's central to the show's plot.

And the move is being used to keep viewers entertained and engaged as the show is currently on its summer hiatus, with the second season starting in September.

This is brilliant, and the first time I've seen a show use Twitter to actually expand on the actual plot and story (guys? Has this been done before? If so, who did it?). I love this, and think leveraging social media in such a way holds enormous potential for television shows. Hopefully we'll see more of this moving forward.

Oh and USA, I'd still love to see Burn Notice using Twitter, email me if you decide to get started.

UPDATE: Lindsay Allen has pointed out that Burn Notice IS on Twitter. That's not bad, but I'd still like to see them doing some in-character tweeting as ABC is with Castle.